One hundred American Sign Language signs selected from sign vocabularies used with mentally retarded persons were rated for iconicity by 20 college students, 12 deaf adults, and 20 first-graders. A Pearson Product-Moment correlation showed that ratings tended to be highly similar for the three groups. Classification of signs based on ratings by each group, however, showed that perceptions of iconicity were not identical across the groups. Deaf subjects rated more items as iconic than did hearing groups. Hearing subjects rated about one-half of the signs as noniconic. Results suggest that sign ratings for iconicity will be helpful for teachers in determining which signs will be most easily acquired by retarded learners. Findings also suggest that factors other than iconicity contribute to the ease of sign acquisition in nonverbal retarded learners.


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pp. 440-449
Launched on MUSE
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